First Year at Capstone

Last month I finished my first year working part time at Capstone. That’s long enough to feel like you know a company, and still short enough to be new. I’ve been reflecting about the differences to my 36 years working full time at IBM (38 years if you count my part time student work there.) This is NOT a technical blog post. 

Over those years, I count 11 different careers at IBM – ranging from networking hardware development to large business application development, from building commercial products to data-communications research, from small team development to global CTO for product families with 100s of developers in half a dozen countries.

IBM building
Thomas Hawk Flickr via Compfight cc

I worked for several organizations with great leaders and teams – where businesswomen and men led with a clear vision of the goals, and the teams mentored and grew their members to be more effective contributors in whatever their role.

I worked for a few organizations with significant handicaps – most often the result of insecure leaders who felt threatened by success of team members, or toxic team members who sowed distrust “behind the scenes,” seriously impacting team collaboration and performance.

The greatest things about those years were the experience of working with many, many skilled and motivated individuals – people I’d love to join on another project, and the knowledge that the company truly believed in the importance of honesty and integrity – not because that reduces exposure to litigation, but because they are the right way to do business and treat people, and the only way to establish lasting and growing relationships with employees and clients.

Moving to Capstone one year ago, I went from a 400,000-person, publicly-traded, global corporation, to a 100-person, privately-owned company with one owner, Jim Richards. Jim’s in the office every day and has the opportunity to hand-pick his leaders. This means he can pick the best, as opposed to the bell-curve that’s unavoidable in a 400,000 person organization.

Our owner holds strong religious beliefs that are the moral compass of Capstone. We are honest and forthright in our dealings with customers and one another. We show integrity in our business relations and commitments, both with customers and peers (google: “capstone servant partner” to see why we trademarked the “Servant Partner” phrase / philosophy.) These foundational beliefs are durable across cultures. While our owner is Christian, he celebrates and embraces team members that hold honesty and integrity and forthrightness dear, independent of their personal beliefs.

First Year at Capstone“He celebrates and embraces team members that hold honesty and integrity and forthrightness dear, independent of their personal beliefs.”

The nature of our development work at Capstone is small-team, which multiplies collaboration and effectiveness, and which quickly highlights where one’s skills lie and where one’s gaps are. The teams are clusters of highly skilled engineers who are innovative and passionate about the latest technologies and techniques, and experienced enough to know that to really be cool, technology must deliver business value.

The company’s decision process is simple: Consider what’s right and best for BOTH the customer and Capstone, then proceed. If the matter is new or significant or unusual, the process includes a joint review with the owner and the leadership team, then proceed. (Compare that to a huge bureaucracy with a century of legacy to consider in every decision.)

“Consider what’s right and best for BOTH the customer and Capstone, then proceed.”

What’s my experience moving from a giant multinational with world-class people, assets, reach and brand, to a small regional company where each of us grabs an oar and rows harder when we need to move faster?  Liberating! I can’t wait to see what working for Capstone next year looks like.